Dora B. Montefiore, Justice, 20 August 1910
Source: Justice, p.6, 20 August 1910;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
In the “New York Call,” of July 22, an interview with Mrs. Philip Snowden is reported, in which, when the interviewer asked her whether she were a Socialist, she replied: “Oh, yes, I am quite in sympathy with Socialist principles, and believe Socialism is the final solution.” As we are not favoured with the information as to what the problem is that Socialism is going to solve, it may be useful to remind others of the same loose habit of thought as is displayed in this answer by the wife of the Labour member for Blackburn, that the leading principle of Socialism is the overthrow of the capitalist system, and the establishing in its place of a Co-operative Commonwealth. To carry out this ideal successfully will require all the vigilance, devotion and self-abnegation of the intellectuals who are interpreting for the workers; all the solidarity, determination and self-sacrifice of those workers; and all the vision, moral enthusiasm and practical wisdom of our modern teachers and seers. Not one who really believes in Socialist principles can afford to dally with the enemy, or come to terms, in any shape or form, on vital principles with the reactionary.
Socialism is being attacked in every country where it is a growing force with the weapons which the reactionary knows have been dipped in the poison of untruth, but which he does not scruple to use. In Anglo-Saxon countries every Socialist is marked down as “an Atheist and a free-lover”; it is, therefore, inconvenient to those who are weak-kneed, or who are desirous of, making their way in unaccustomed circles, to be known as active Socialists. It is much safer, when pressed on the subject, to admit they are “in favour of Socialist principles.” Then, too, when a person of that sort observes the absolute terror with which the average middle-class man or woman snorts, rears and shies at the very notion of the Co-operative Commonwealth being established in his or her day, it is so much easier and more diplomatic to add: “But Socialism will only be the final solution.” Everything will go on just as it is in my life-time, and your life-time, and the life-time of your children; but some time in the dim and distant future when it does not very much matter, the “final solution” may come about. Yes, considering what a fearsome bogey Socialism is to the drawing-room lady, and to Mrs. Snowden’s friends, such as Mrs. Fawcett and Lady Frances Balfour, it is safer to think and speak of it as “the final solution,” and the phrase should be recommended to all wives of Labour men who desire to walk warily, and to “order themselves lowly and reverently to all their betters.” In another part of the same interview, when speaking of the recent still-born “Conciliation” Bill, which Mrs. Snowden favours, the interviewer remarked: “But the Social-Democrats held out for Adult Suffrage or nothing, didn’t they?” “Oh, the Social-Democrats!” Mrs. Snowden exclaimed, with a slight gesture of impatience: “I am not an impossibilist. I believe in proceeding step by step.... The Social-Democrats are always opposing and criticising. I believe in getting out and working, and taking what you can get.” It is just as well, therefore, for the sake of those who don’t know, or who have “disremembered,” to put sober fact side by side with this brilliant fiction. Far from Social-Democrats being impossibilists on this subject of extending the franchise to women, or taking up an attitude of “opposition and criticism,” they, in 1907, issued a manifesto demanding Adult Suffrage for all men and women. In 1908 they held a conference at the Holborn Town Hall, of Socialist and Trade and Labour organisations, to discuss how best to further the cause of Electoral Reform on the basis, of Adult Suffrage, Payment of Members, Proportional Representation, etc. The resolutions passed at this conference were forwarded to the Government, and the principle involved in them, no doubt, helped to sustain Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Churchill when they voted against the recent undemocratic “Conciliation” Bill.
As I implied at the beginning of this article, convinced and active Socialists dare not give away a point, or concede a fraction of a principle anywhere, for the enemy, capitalism, is wary and class-conscious, and is never tired of offering the worker a stone in the place of bread. Mrs. Snowden, being in a privileged position, can afford to believe in “taking what you can get,” but if “what you can get” means a measure which Socialists know is likely to retard even “the final solution” they do right in throwing all their influence against such a measure, and they are only doing their duty when they warn the workers that for the unprivileged “taking what you can get,” without regard to the ultimate consequences, is a dangerous pastime.
Mrs. Snowden, in the interview of July 22, calls Mr. Lloyd George “a hypocrite,” because he did not vote for the “Conciliation” Bill. Mr. Lloyd George, in a speech at Bodnant Hall, near Conway, said on August 12: “I believe in enfranchising the working woman. I would vote for it. I have voted for a Bill that would have done so. I will do so again, and not merely that, but I will use the whole of my influence, whether publicly or privately, to get a Bill of that sort through. “This hardly looks as if the Social-Democrats were such impossibilists on this question as Mrs. Snowden would wish the readers of “The Call” to believe; and if the workers need further demonstration that Social-Democrats are right and Mrs. Snowden wrong in her demands for electoral reform, I quote from a recent pamphlet of Sir Charles Dilke’s, than whom there is no greater authority on this question: “How can any change franchise be carried in this country, as things stand, that does not include the women? ... The moment you have a Franchise Bill you get into a Parliamentary maze, from which Adult Suffrage is as certain to be the only issue as was Household Suffrage from that of 1866 and 1867.”
Now, since it has been so clearly proved, even out of the mouths of Liberals, that Mrs. Snowden’s position on the subject of Womanhood Suffrage is, not democratically up to date, even though she believes in Socialism as “the final solution,” may it not be within the bounds of possibility that she is not quite accurate in believing that “being in sympathy with Socialist principles,” while you spend your life and activities among those who are opposed to those principles, is likely to lead even to “the final solution"?
In the “Daily Express” of August 8, we read that according to the report of the Mines Commission at Pretoria, “the average age a death for those working underground in the Pretoria Mines is thirty-five, as compared with fifty on the Bendigo Mines.” In the “Daily CHRONICLE of August 10, Mr. Beveridge, Director of Labour Exchanges, devised by a capitalist Government, is reported to have said in a speech at Grayshott to the Haslemere Labour Exchange and Unemployment Society: “Unemployment was not going to be abolished in their lifetime, and he very much doubted, if it were going to be abolished at all.” It is the miners and the unemployed therefore, who must be feeling inconvenience while they are waiting for “the final solution.”
An odd million or so of Mrs. Snowden’s sister’ women, who are forced by economic conditions to sell themselves nightly on the streets of great towns, might be released from white slavery if “the final solution” were somewhat hastened. Some of us, also, are suffering spiritually and mentally because of the economic and social chaos in which we ourselves, along with the miners, the white slaves, and the unemployed, are weltering; and the Rev. James Adderley, of Saltley Vicarage, less self-satisfied than Mrs. Snowden, exclaims in. a letter to the “Daily Chronicle,” of August 12 “I can only say for myself that next to the Bible it is Socialism which keeps me Christian!” I would have the workers and the unemployed observe that Father Adderley does not say the Labour Party is strengthening his Christian faith. But Mrs. Snowden tells the Socialists of America that “it is the Labour Party which is forcing the Liberals to do things. Look at the Budget and the agitation over the Lords!” Yes, we have been looking for some time, and have used a high-powered telescope, but we still fail to perceive any “agitation.” If, indeed, it be true that the Labour Party is forcing the Liberals to do things they would not otherwise have done, surely the same permeating influence may be observed on the part of the Liberals towards the Labour Party; and, vide the attitude of Mr. Lloyd George, Sir Charles Dilke, and Mr. Churchill on the subject of the enfranchisement of women, it is the Liberals who are gradually converting a reactionary Labour Party to a democratic attitude.
DORA B. MONTEFIORE.